LONDON - Polyclonal antibody company Therapeutic Antibodies Inc. (TAB) has been commissioned by G. D. Searle & Co. to identify and develop a new antibody-based drug.

Under the agreement, Searle forecasts it will pay TAB US$8 million for research and development milestones, and for supplies of the product.

The first payment of $1 million was received on signing the contract. If the product is launched, TAB will be responsible for supplies, Searle will hold worldwide marketing rights and revenues will be shared.

Andrew Heath, CEO of TAB, based in London and Nashville, told BioWorld International, “This is rather a fascinating endorsement of our technology. Searle wanted an antibody product and considered other competing technologies before choosing us. This [endorsement] is where the real value of the deal lies.“

Heath was unable to give details of the proposed product, but it is understood Searle is looking for an antibody-based drug to reverse the effects of an anticoagulant drug it has in development. The antibody would be used in emergencies such as traffic accidents to immediately reverse the anticlotting effects of the Searle drug.

Searle, of Skokie, Ill., is the pharmaceutical division of Monsanto Co., of St. Louis.

The task for TAB will be to design an antibody which is specific to Searle's product. While Heath said this is a “relatively quick process,“ it will then take a year or so to produce the antibody in a flock of sheep in Australia.

Searle will be covering all the R&D costs and TAB will manage the clinical trials. Heath said, “We don't believe we will need to do a large-scale clinical trial. We need to show the antibody is safe and that it has the desired effect.“

He added that signing this deal opens up the prospect of similar deals in other indications. “In a sense, this is contract manufacturing, but it puts a much higher value on our technology than if someone came and asked us to manufacture an existing compound.“ *